Afternoon Jolt: Burgess Says SPD Chief Diaz Should Go
The day's winners and losers.
Seattle City Council member and mayoral candidate Tim Burgess says that if he's elected mayor, he would replace Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.
The announcement was part of a four-point outline Burgess sent to the press summarizing his plan to reform the SPD. (Burgess was the Public Safety Committee chair when the DOJ released its damning 2011 report. The DOJ has since put the SPD in a consent decree agreement with an overisght monitor. Fellow council member Bruce Harrell took the committee over in 2012. )
Burgess' four points were: "Adopt place-based policing" (which means focusing police work on crime hot spots); "Implement problem-oriented policing" (which means working with communities to prevent crime rather than constantly being in response mode); "Improve training" (which means giving police a better understanding of the culture of the communities they're in); and "Appoint new police chief" —which means getting rid of Diaz, who's been the chief since 2010, and interim chief since March 2009 when he took over from former SPD Chief Gil Kerlikowske.
In a release Burgess said:
The people of Seattle have the highest expectations of their police department, and rightly so. However, we have a crisis in public confidence. Sustainable and lasting reform of police services requires incredibly strong leadership and Mike McGinn has not provided that leadership. Our police officers and our community deserve better.
And this afternoon, Burgess told PubliCola,
Police reform and effective policing is fundamentally about leadership—leadership from both the mayor and the police chief. ... I have been watching over the last couple of years as the city has tried to effect change and I’ve been very disappointed in the progress we’ve made. I've been very disappointed in the contentious relationship with the Department of Justice. I was very dismayed at the mayor and the police chief and their opposition to Merrick Bobb as the DOJ monitor. I felt that their objections to him were baseless.
Diaz is the chief of police. He selects the top commanders in the department, and the first step is a new police chief. But if I’m elected as mayor of the city it will be very clear to that new police chief that that’s not the only change we need. There will be fundamental sweeping changes in the police department.
We have asked McGinn's office for a comment.
Fun footnote. When Burgess announced his candidacy a month ago, we asked him point blank if he thought Diaz should go. Here's what he told us.
PubliCola: [Mayoral candidate] Ed Murray has said that one of the first steps he'll take if he's elected is to ask for all city department heads to offer their resignations. Would you do the same? And specifically, would you move to replace police chief John Diaz?
Burgess: I think it's pretty common that when the mayor changes, the department heads offer to go or stay, because the mayor gets to choose his own department heads. I think that will happen no matter who is elected mayor. The police chief is the single most important appointment the mayor makes.